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American Idol Music Director
"The Cool Side" 02/24/14
Billy Dee Williams
Jazz Fan Sue Winchester
Ronnie Laws and Ndugu Chancler
Fine Dining at its best
Review by: L.A.Jones
Friday night, all dressed up and time to step out to a place called H.O.M.E.(House of Music & Entertainment) in Beverly Hills, CA.
The evening was advertised as the 2nd in a series of musical events promoted by VGJazz presents. The headliners were Ronnie Laws, Ngudu Chancler and Herman Jackson. Hosting the festivities was comedian Troy Rawlings while the three course menu was prepared by Executive Chef Shawn Davis.
Entering the venue we were greeted and treated more like friends than guests. H.O.M.E. staff worked diligently to help everyone feel welcomed and relaxed. The service was prompt, courteous and always delivered with genuine smiles. A simple, yet sophisticated décor with fresh, red roses and candlelight to gave it a romantic flare. The crowd was a mixture of Los Angeles’ finest, dressed to impress with even a couple of celebrities such as Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars-trilogy, Lady Sings The Blues) and Hal Williams (227, Private Benjamin) were on hand to enjoy a night of jazz and fine dining.
First Course Crab Cake
The menu for the evening was varied enough to please everyone’s palate. As I had different selections to sample from the 3 course meal offered by the event. The Arugula salad, dressed lightly with a spicy vinaigrette was balanced by a smooth Goat cheese and presented beautifully. For the main entrée I ordered the rosemary chicken on mashed potatoes with honey glazed carrots and shallots surrounded by a flavorful, mushroom gravy. Another first course selected was a crab cake on a bed of roasted corn hash calamari salad. The crab cake had chunks of succulent crabmeat seasoned and seared to perfection. The herb-crusted Salmon with Asparagus was another second course item on the menu. The flaky Salmon was paired with a pesto couscous. Throughout the dinner a waiter would deliver addictively warm bread. There was only one choice for dessert but, oh my, what a dessert. A black and white Bread Pudding, still warm out of the oven, completed our delicious meal and prepared us for main event.
Dessert Bread Pudding
To begin the evening’s entertainment, Troy Rawlings joked with the audience before introducing Herman Jackson’s Quartet, giving us a run down of Herman Jackson’s many achievements as a musician, composer, producer, arranger and the current music director for American Idol for the last 12 years. Herman’s group began with the title track from his newly released CD, “The Cool Side,” followed with “Celia” and “River Nile” also from his “Cool Side” CD. The song selections all had a smooth jazz groove that flowed and complimented the evening with the expert sounds of Herman Jackson on keyboard, Craig T. Cooper on guitar, Sekou Bunch on bass and Felix “D-Kat” Pollard on drums. The group tempted the audience with a taste of musical flavors blended and mixed to whet our appetite for more. As we enjoyed the vibe, Troy came back on stage to introduce the renowned saxophonist, Ronnie Laws. From side stage Laws made his entrance like a pied piper leading us to a tropical island with his sax, taking us to the second half of the set with an R&B feel that had everyone swaying and clapping. Ronnie continued giving the crowd what they wanted with his vocals and sharing his experiences as a little boy growing up in Houston and being in the living room with his mentors the Jazz Crusaders while improvising soulfully. Appearing on stage during Laws performance, percussionist extraordinaire, Ngudu Chancler played a variety of rhythmic instruments to season the mix to perfection. Ronnie Laws completed the first set by inviting his son, Jaman Laws, who is an accomplished young saxophonist. Father and son wowed the crowd with Ronnie’s hit “Always There.” It was hard to believe there was more to come.
Son, Jamal Laws joins dad Ronnie on stage.
After a brief intermission Herman Jackson’s Quartet, along with Ronnie Laws, got back to work opening with a laidback slow jam. As Ronnie exited the stage, the sound shifted quickly to an upbeat party groove and out of the audience came the sound of an electrified Kalimba. Ngudu, was back with his unique sound and instrumentation but this time he was center stage. He invited the crowd to get into it as he with his thumb piano jammed with the Bunch’s bass. As the party continued to gather momentum, other members of the group joined in the conversation with Craig T. Cooper’s guitar being the voice of funk.
Then, to end the evening, ever the teacher, Ngudu Chancler gave us his brand of audience participation in the form of singing an accompaniment to his life’s achievements, from working with Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, George Duke, Santana and the Dazz Band, just to name a few. We gladly lent our voices to his story.
All throughout the first set and the second I realized that Herman Jackson’s Quartet held the whole night together with a tight beat and an unforgettable groove.
VGJazz Promoter Eric DeWitt and Host Troy Rawlings
"The spirit of a live performance has no equal along with a wonderful evening spent with great food. As more celebrity events are in the works in the upcoming months for adults searching for a unique experience filled with musical energy in a place that serves it up with style and taste"…there’s no place like H.O.M.E.
Visit H.O.M.E website HERE: